Blossom time and fruit finishing (Juliet’s Blog, May)

Apple blossom

The first week in May has been peak blossom time in my orchard of Gloucestershire apple varieties. They started to bloom in the first week in April, and there are still several trees showing no pink as yet. I have been keeping a record this year, so will be able to put them into various pollination groups at the end of the season. However, some trees are having a year off with insufficient blossom to say where they will fit into the scheme.

At the same time, I am still eating last year’s fruit, which have been stored in a cool outhouse. I’ve only two varieties remaining. The Elmore Pippin are now rather shrivelled, but the Green 2Yr Old (aka French Crab ) are fine.

They are a useful size (up to 3 inches diameter) and make a good apple pie. They are not the most exciting dessert fruit but perfectly pleasant even if the skin is thick and coarse – probably why they keep so well.

Orchard Tour 26th April 2024

We are arranging a tour of orchards in the northern reaches of Gloucestershire – we’ll cross the border into southern Herefordshire, so you’ll need to have your passport with you and had all the necessary jabs – and have set a date of Friday 26th April.

The date has been chosen in the hope and expectation that many of the fruit trees in the orchards we’ll visit will be in blossom, the likelihood of which is enhanced that the orchards we’ll be visiting contain both perry pear and apple trees … (but the presence or otherwise of blossom is, of course, determined by natural forces, well beyond the control of the Trustees).

Price per person: £20

Details of the itinerary will be confirmed in due course, but the current plan is as follows:

– Meet at Henley Bank, Brockworth, at 10:00.
– Tour of Henley Bank orchards
– Visit two orchards in an around Dymock and Bromesberrow
– Visit orchards in Putley and / or Preston Cross
– Tour of an orchard in Overbury
– Tour of an orchard in Winchcombe
– Return to Henley Bank, Brockworth at 16:00.

We can have a maximum of 15 people. To reserve your place please contact either David Lindgren David.lindgren@glosorchards.org or Martin Hayes martin.hayes@glosorchards.org

Elderflowers to apples…

Goodbye elderflower.

Hello apple.

The National Trust has planted an orchard on its land at Tinkley Gate, near Nympsfield, in amongst the old elderflower plantation there. Once used to supply Bottle Green with fruit for their elderflower drinks, the trees are now surplus to requirements and are slowly fading away, leaving gaps to be filled with fruit trees.

We started the process last week, planting Gloucestershire varieties of apple…. Arlingham Schoolboys, Gilliflower of Gloucester, Eden, Lemon Roy, Gloucester Royal, Taynton Codlin, Flower of the West, Siddington Russet, Tewkesbury Baron, Wheeler’s Russet, Foxwhelp, Dymock Red, all evocative names that reflect Gloucestershire’s rich past as a fruit-growing county.

As well as supplying the trees and guards, the Trust’s Chair of Trustees, David Lindgren, was on hand to offer advice and guidance to the National Trust’s group of volunteers, who planted and guarded the trees with energy and enthusiasm and no little skill.

It’s another example of the work the Trust does to conserve and celebrate Gloucestershire’s orchards.

 

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Spring is upon us and the buds are bursting (Juliet’s Blog, March)

Fruiting buds of the apple variety Golden Spire just starting to burst, at the silver tip stage, 1st March 2024. Start to record flowering when you can see the pink of petals even though they haven’t unfurled yet.

Spring is upon us and the buds are bursting.

First off is the Prunus blossom – plums and the like – coming into bloom in my garden. Down the orchard most buds are still tight but the pear buds are swelling as are a few of the apple varieties.

One of the first apples in my collection to show pink is Golden Spire, about the 1st of April, and in full flower three weeks later. (I bought and planted it as the local variety Tom Matthews before DNA testing showed it to be a widely known kind.) This little tree blooms and fruits its socks off every year – very reliable – but it has never grown much, even though in theory it is on the same rootstock as everything else.

Early plum blossom, 3rd March 2024.

It is said to be important to have varieties in the same pollination group present. Some bloom earlier, some later. Most varieties are not self-fertile so you need two different kinds in blossom at the same time for pollination to occur and fruit to set. This matters if you only have two trees and one is very early – like Golden Spire – and the other is very late – Kernel Underleaf for example.

But I wonder how true this insistence on planting different varieties really is. For big commercial growers with extensive orchards, sure, but most of us probably have trees in domestic settings where the neighbour over the wall will have also have an apple tree or crab within an easy flight for a bumblebee.

I have for several years been making casual notes about timing of flowering, but this year I intend to make a concerted effort so that Gloucestershire Orchard Trust can publish details of the pollination groups of our varieties.

This is an exercise where other people’s observations would be very helpful. When you see your tree coming into bloom make some notes. There are a series of stages – tight bud, pink bud, king bloom, full bloom, petal fall, fruit set, though obviously on a big tree you are likely to have flowers at various stages, so go for the overall effect. We need to compare Gloucestershire fruit with better-known varieties, so records for your Bramley’s Seedling are valuable too.

Wassail at Days Cottage

Some pictures from Helen and Dave at Days Cottage, taken at their recent Wassail:

– thanking the orchard for the harvest

– welcoming back the sun

– encouraging our good orchard spirits and reminding the trees to wake up after winter

– generally having a good song and dance around the orchard

– Simon our butler/Green Man and masked wassailers enjoying a bonfire afterwards. Continued

Apple and pear trees for sale

Tom Adams from Tom Adams Fruit Tree Nursery has contacted GOT to say he still has a wide range of bare root apple and pear trees for sale this season. Tom says:

I run an organic fruit tree nursery in Shropshire and specialise in apple and pear varieties from the borderlands.

I work closely with the Marcher Apple Network and a few year ago Jim Chapman from the National Perry Pear Collection allowed me access to his collection and I now have a wide range of Perry pear trees for sale.

We are nearing the end of the bare root season and I still have quite a few trees left for sale.

If you know of any projects and and individuals that may be interested in such trees please do pass on my details.

Tom’s current stock list is available on this pdf. https://glosorchards.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/tomtheapplemanpearlist.pdf

http://www.tomtheappleman.co.uk   07776 498936

Pruning a variety, but which one? (Juliet’s Orchard Blog January 2024 #2)

Shepperdine Silt

Come the first agreeable afternoon this month I intend to start pruning the apple trees. Pruning is not difficult and whatever you do you are not likely to kill the tree, but good pruning results in higher production and better quality fruit. The mantra is start with dead, damaged, diseased, and crossing but I would prefix that with “why am I going to the effort of pruning it at all”. In my experimental orchard of about 100 varieties I’ve had them long enough to know that there are some I can hardly be bothered with. Result – they don’t get touched until they are overcrowding a variety I like and then they get a severe chop for firewood – Shepperdine Silt was the first to get this honour, a highly vigorous tree with large quantities of disgusting little fruit going rotten before they dropped. Cut at about knee height three years ago it has resprouted vigorously. Remember, I said I cut it off at knee height. Had I done it at ankle height it would still probably have regrown, but it would be from the rootstock below the graft union so it would no-longer be a Shepperdine Silt.

I don’t want to lose any variety in my collection. It is entirely possible that I haven’t discovered the best use for this variety yet. It took me years to discover that Green Two Year Old becomes edible after Christmas and currently is a nice crisp tart green eater, and will go on well for several months eventually becoming yellow. It is fine for cooking too.

All the varieties I planted were thought to be Gloucestershire varieties at the time. Thanks to DNA analysis, where GOT is sending off “our varieties” for testing, we now know that Green Two Year Old matches the variety held in the National Fruit Collection as French Crab, and Shepperdine Silt is Lord Lambourne. All credit to the pioneers of varietal conservation in Gloucestershire, Charles Martell, Richard Fawcett and Alan Watson; without their work more than 20 years ago we wouldn’t have the luxury of testing the varieties which they secured against possible extinction to find out how unique each one really is. Though my Green Two Year Old matches the description of French Crab fine, my Shepperdine Silt can’t be the same high-quality dessert fruit as Lord Lambourne. Summat wrong somewhere

Fermenting nicely, Juliet’s Orchard Blog January 2024 #1

The juice pressed in the autumn and early part of the winter has now all passed its frothing stage and is just bubbling away quietly.

One of life’s little pleasures is to watch the fermentation, the tiny bubbles rising to the neck of the demijohn, or the bubbler airlock filling with gas and pushing a ball of gas up the escape route.

It is good to keep an eye on the process – the level of liquid on the two sides of the bubbler should be different, with the level lower on the jar side than the escape side.

This means that fermentation is occuring as it should and the likely outcome will be cider and not vinegar.

Juliet’s Orchard Blog December 2023

13 December 2023

I finished pressing the cider apples and clearing up today. The Ansell and Hagloe Crab, shaken from the tree onto tarpaulins about a month ago, were still in prime condition.

If you are organised enough to collect the fruit before it falls to the ground, it is much easier doing it this way than collecting dropped fruit that needs vigorous cleaning to get the mud off before it can be scratted. However, it is good to wait till at least some ripe fruit has fallen or it won’t be ready.

All my cider and juice is for personal or family consumption. I’ve got a ramshackle cider-making kit, involving an old garden shredder and various fermenting barrels and demi-johns bought from charity shops over the years.

My little fruit press was bought second-hand at auction and is a very good size for making single-variety juices when you only have one tree of any particular sort. I baulk at the cost of commercial strainer bags and have tried net curtains but they rot and tear quickly and the pulp will squirt out of any hole when under pressure. The best solution I’ve found is old linen tea towels. They allow a free flow of liquid and can be washed and sterilised regularly.

Juliet Bailey

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